American University to host EPA Apps for the Environment hackathon

If you’d like to get your civic hacker on, American University is hosting a hackathon for the Apps for Environment on Saturday, September 3rd. Register to make green apps here.

The pitch for the hackathon includes a “green from the beginning” detail that may catch the eye of sustainable energy advocates:

The hack-a-thon will be located in the spacious new Graduate Research Center adjoining the School of International Service building, which is itself a certified LEED Gold marvel of green technology innovation. With a sustainable design and “cradle-to cradle” philosophy for recycling and reusing building materials, participants will even power their devices with solar and wind offset power so their Apps for the Environment will be green from the first idea until the last line of code.

Come one, come all

The hackathon’s organizers emphasize that this event isn’t just about the District’s local civic coders: “Whether you’re a student at any school in computer science, journalism, a professional in the field, or just have an idea to share (which you can post here please join us at the hack-a-thonT”

American University journalism professor David Johnson left a comment on the event page that expands that idea:

…even if you can’t code, you can have ideas. even if you don’t have ideas, you can help spread the word. even if you can’t come to DC or AU, you can join us on twitter, ustream, IRC, GitHub, and other online hangouts… we’ll be all over it. everyone can be a part of this. spread the word to campuses and dev shops. come hack with us.

Open data webinar

Last week, I moderated an EPA webinar on open data and the Apps for the Environment challenge from the D.C. headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If you’d like to learn more about Apps for the Environment (and hear a robust conversation about open data and apps contests!) watch the webinar and presentation embedded below.

Apps for the Environment Developer Webinar(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Hackathon coordinates

If you would like to participate in the AU hackathon, you can put your civic surplus to work from 9 AM to 6 PM at the location below:

Head on over to the event page on Facebook for more details and register to make green apps at Eventbrite.

Canadian Apps for Climate Change Winners Announced

Earlier this spring, the United States released community health information to provision healthcare apps and drive better policy.

[Photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang, U.S. Air Force, via Wikipedia]

Now, scientists and policy makers will explore the potential for climate data services to inform citizens and government, enabling both to make better decisions for communities and businesses alike.

Can open government lead to greater awareness or action around the existential issue climate change? Posting open data online in of itself is not enough, although there’s no question that publishing scientific data where it can be publicly accessed, validated or stored is a huge step forward with respect to transparency.

Socializing open health data was necessary to build a better government platform at the National Institute of Medicine, where open data and innovation led to an innovative means to identity pills.

Is collaborative innovation in open government possible in Canada? On the one hand, Canadian open data consultant David Eaves bluntly pointed out some of the challenges extant because of culture: Collaborate? ‘Governments don’t do that’.

Collaborative innovation, however, may be another matter, as many governments, large and small, are experimenting with websites crowdsourcing citizen ideas.

Enter the Apps for Climate Action Contest, which challenged Canadian software developers to raise awareness and inspire action by using open data in Web and mobile applications. The open data itself came from the government of British Columbia, which created a catalogue of climate and greenhouse gas emission data at

So who won?

Best Web AppVELO

The app allows organizations to compare against peers internally and externally, enabling businesses to monitor and compare benchmarks for carbon emissions continually rather than annually.

Best Mobile AppMathTappers: Carbon Choices

The MathTappers: Carbon Choices App is designed to help students examine the effects of their personal choices on climate change. As students track their choices their impact is assessed in terms of annualized kg of CO2 equivalents generated.”

Best of B.C.Waterly

This app is designed to help people to use less water on their lawns.

People’s ChoiceVanTrash

“VanTrash scrapes pickup schedules from City of Vancouver websites and combines it with GIS data from In turn, VanTrash exposes this scraped data in a clean RESTful API for other citizens to build and innovate on.” The idea here is that the app will help residents to remember to take their recycling, organic waste and other garbage out.

Will any of these apps make a difference in a global context? The jury is out on that count. Notably, several of the winners empower citizens with more lightweight access to information about local services or awareness of commodities usage. Canada may be one of the world leader’s in sheer volume of clean water but that doesn’t mean minimization of transport or use doesn’t make sense. I could certainly use a trash and recycling reminder here in Washington; maybe Octo Labs will work with a good developer if the data is available.

A gallery of all the climate change apps is online.

Climate Services and Open Data in the US

In the United States, using data as a climate change agent is part of the big idea behind, where public climate data from NOAA and NASA could spur better decisions and a more informed society.

Amidst varied hopes for open data and open government, enabling better data-driven decisions in both the private and public sector rank high. One of the existential challenges for humanity will be addressing climate change, particularly in countries where scientific resources are scant or even non-existent.

In February, the Obama administration proposed a climate service that would provide projections on climate change in much the same way that the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) provides weather information. Earlier this summer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published new research, “Earth Observation for Climate Change,” and hosted a forum on leveraging climate data services to manage climate change. The video from the forum is embedded below:

For more perspective on the role of and climate services, read the full post on Radar.